Mackinac Island’s Island House Hotel, which began in 1852 as a modest beach house, has undergone a remarkable transformation to become a beloved historic waterfront destination that still welcomes countless travelers from all over the world.
This time-honored estate is the most historic hotel on the island, boasting exquisite Victorian architecture and a warm, family-operated intimacy that guarantees an immersive and genuine experience for all visitors seeking an unforgettable stay on Mackinac Island.
It’s no wonder that USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice awards included in it the 10 Best Historic Hotels in the US.
“We are absolutely thrilled and deeply honored to stand alongside such remarkable and distinguished hotels.” – statement from Island House Hotel on Facebook
About the Island House Hotel
The Island House Hotel on Mackinac Island is a popular destination for travelers seeking a unique and luxurious experience. Located on Main Street, it offers stunning waterfront views, exceptional service, and an array of convenient amenities. The hotel offers a range of accommodations, from standard rooms to suites, and features a garden, a shared lounge, a terrace, and a bar.
The hotel is a Historic Hotels of America member and a State of Michigan landmark. The hotel delivers an impeccable balance of class and comfort with beautiful waterfront views.
“Island House has the quirks of a historical hotel, but with modern charm and amenities. The newly renovated rooms are attractive, but fit the feel of the era and the air conditioning and bed made our stay comfortable. The staff was once again friendly and very helpful. Can’t wait to stay again.”– review on Hotels.com
A Quick History of the Island House Hotel on Mackinac Island
The Island House Hotel on Mackinac Island has a rich history dating back to 1852 when it was built as a beachfront resort for Irish fur trader and member of the Michigan state legislature, Charles O’Malley.
In 1865, Captain Henry Van Allen acquired the resort, laying the foundation for a cherished family legacy that endured for nearly 75 years. It was under his direction that the hotel began to flourish and grow as a popular attraction on Mackinac Island, often being labeled the “best family hotel” in the area.
The hotel faced imminent danger of being demolished after the Van Allen’s descendants could no longer afford to pay its taxes and keep up with maintenance, leaving it dormant for most of 1938-1969.
In 1972, Harry Ryba, his son, James, and his son-in-law, Victor Callewaert, purchased the property from the Mackinac Island State Park and began a two-year-long renovation project, extensively restoring every architectural detail inside the building. The State of Michigan recognized the hotel as a Michigan Historical Landmark in 1973.
The hotel continues to be owned and operated by the Callewaert family, who take pride in providing genuine hospitality and care to guests. Their work has been acknowledged by the Historic Hotels of America with an Award of Excellence for “Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year” in 2020 and inclusion on the 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Most Magnificent Gardens list.
More to Explore on Mackinac Island
Given how much there is to do on Mackinac Island, the fact that you can’t possibly do it all in one trip is not surprising. It might end up being your go-to location to escape the 21st century and take in a slower pace of life.
Ride a horse-drawn carriage, indulge in decadent Mackinac fudge, go hiking, shop, take in the crisp, clean air, and spend quality time with your family. Rent a bike and tour the island while taking in the delicious cuisine and historic forts. There are so many possibilities!
Explore Mackinac Island State Park
You’ll be amazed to know that Mackinac Island State Park covers around 80% of the island. The park offers history, natural wonders, and hiking opportunities for all types of visitors. Consider hiking from town to Fort Mackinac and then heading to Arch Rock for a fulfilling experience.
Climb the Stairs to Arch Rock
If you enjoy a challenge, you can take the lower trail (M-185) to Arch Rock and climb 207 wooden steps to reach the top. Don’t worry if stairs aren’t your thing – you can still visit Arch Rock from above without any climbing!
Skip Rocks on Lake Huron
Get in touch with your inner child by skipping rocks on Lake Huron’s serene shores. This simple yet enjoyable activity can be even more magical during sunrise or sunset.
Hike to Sugar Loaf Rock
Choose from several hiking options to reach Sugar Loaf Rock’s stunning views from Lookout Point. Try the most direct route from Main Street via Bogan Lane, Huron Road, Winnebago Trail, and Sugar Loaf Road.
Visit the Little Stone Church
This charming chapel, also known as the Union Congregational Church, is built with local fieldstone and cut granite. Stop by to admire its beautiful stained glass windows depicting the island’s history or attend a service.
Explore Mackinac Island Library
Escape to this quaint library for a quiet getaway. Relax in an Adirondack chair on the back porch and enjoy waterfront views while reading a book. You can even purchase used books as memorable souvenirs.
See Skull Cave
Though you can’t enter Skull Cave, a sign will provide you with interesting information. The best way to see the cave and hear captivating stories about it is on a horse-drawn wagon tour.
Take a Hike on Over 70 Miles of Trails
Mackinac Island offers more than 70 miles of trails for all hiking levels. Grab a map from the Tourist Information Center or your accommodation and design your hike to combine a few activities in one journey.
Surrey Hills Carriage Museum
Accessible on foot or via a carriage tour, this museum showcases the history of Mackinac Island’s carriages, including a horse-drawn fire engine and hearse. Enjoy some shopping and snacks during your visit.
Grand Hotel Stables and Antique Carriage Museum
Located near the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, this stop is perfect for horse enthusiasts. Marvel at the 30 antique carriages and sleighs on display, as well as the 12 resident horses during a self-guided tour.
And this is just a small sampling of all the great things to do on Mackinac Island – just a short walk, bike ride, or carriage tour away from the historic Island House Hotel and other best places to stay on Mackinac Island!